It all began with a simple gift. When Basalt Elementary School student Ryan Marcinkowski was in first grade, his teacher, Amanda Petersen, gave Ryan a book for his birthday titled “365 Days of Wonder,” a companion to the bestselling children’s book “Wonder.” In it, author RJ Placido uses quotes, phrases and “Wonder” character precepts to “celebrate the goodness of human beings, the strength of people’s hearts, and the power of people’s wills.”
“One of the pages,” Ryan explains, “was on The Ripple Effect. That’s where ‘good’ keeps the ripple going.”
It inspired Ryan to keep the Ripple going too. Beginning last summer, he created his own idea for a kindness project that he could share with his community. For fall 2018, he designed small blue cards that read, “Do something kind and leave this card behind to keep the Ripple going.”
The “Kindness Cards” as he’s dubbed them, go with Ryan wherever he goes — to school, to soccer, to the Basalt Fire Department and to Starbucks, where you will often find him buying a coffee drink for the guests behind him, along with one of his cards, asking strangers to pass the kindness on.
“I think kindness is a great thing and should be supported in as many ways as possible,” Ryan says.
With the help of his parents and teachers, Ryan has distributed more than 100 laminated Kindness Cards (he doesn’t want them to get wet or wrinkled) and has already inspired numerous acts of kindness.
This, however, is not Ryan’s first dabble in compassionate outreach. Before his first communion last spring, Ryan began a food drive for Lift Up, and last summer, he sold lemonade and popsicles for charity, and for his birthday he asked for cash instead of gifts to raise money for the Jessie Rees Foundation’s for JoyJars, a program that provides small toys for kids fighting cancer.
Ryan’s aptitude for empathy and the tenacity with which to act upon it at such a young age is a trait Ryan’s mother, Megan Marcinkowski, is surprised, but delighted, to witness.
“We knew something was going on since he was 5 years old,” says Megan Marcinkowski. “When he got into first grade at Basalt Elementary, Melissa Gatlin helped him really embrace his ideas, and his work has taken off. It is from the goodness of his heart. We didn’t expect it to get this big. It’s been amazing.”
“What I’m hoping happens,” Ryan says, “is The Ripple will keep going, people will keep doing kind things and people will take kindness more seriously. One simple act of kindness can go a long way.”
Amiee White Beazley is a Basalt-based journalist whose work has appeared in The Washington Post, Wine Enthusiast and Sunset magazine among other national publications. “Good News” will appear monthly in the RFWJ. Send suggestions for future columns to email@example.com.